No Genre Purity Tests!

I want to make my position on genre and its blurring and all of that more clear.

I’ll refer to hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi and fantasy and science fiction and books and movies that blur genres. I’ll cheerfully refer to something as a fantasy with sci-fi trappings or something that acts like hard SF but is really squishy soft (*cough* Star Trek *cough*).

But maybe people get the wrong impression from this. This is all an interesting academic exercise to me, really. It’s not a value judgment. “Star Wars” is squishy soft sci-fi, yes. It’s so soft that many argue it’s a fantasy in sci-fi trappings, which I can get behind.

And “The Empire Strikes Back” is still a better movie than “The Martian”, and I am a huge fan of  “The Martian”. “A Wrinkle in Time” is still a better book than “I, Robot” or “Starship Troopers”, and I love all three of those books.

Not being hard sci-fi really, really isn’t a mark of shame to me. It’s not anything. It’s just a classification into a category. It’s taxonomy. Some hard SF sucks. Some soft sci-fi sucks. Some fantasy sucks. And some of all of those things is awesome. It’s just the way it is.

So when people ask me “Why are you so concerned about genres, then?” my response is really “Well I’m not!”. But other people sure seem to be. In fact, you know who seems to be the most concerned about genre?

The pulp revolution guys.

(Shots fired!)

And I get it. I really do. In the old pulp days, genres were mixed in ways that people don’t really think about today, what with our split between sci-fi and fantasy. And it’s good to get back to that.

But where I disagree in this case is that I believe the way to do that is NOT to deny sub-genres exist. That does nothing. It causes pointless arguments and – frankly – makes you look kind of silly when you start to claim things that are obviously real don’t exist (*cough cough*).

Because I’m seeing this: On one hand, it’s “Write what you want! Write what you want!”

And on the other hand it’s “But also, this particular sub-genre is inherently worse than this one and if you write it you’re limiting yourself. But, hey, write what you want!”

No. My philosophy is this:

Write what you want. But remember the Josh Young principle:

A good science fiction story will look upward, towards the stars and away from the self.

A bad science fiction story will fixate downward, towards the ground and focus on the self.

If we keep that in mind, the bigger issues surrounding all of this will correct themselves.